Nigeria: Convention - APC's Quest for Clean, Comprehensive Register

10 April 2021

Michael Olugbode writes that the long awaited convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may soon be around the corner with almost everything required getting ready

The APC National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari on 25th June 2020 had no choice but to dissolve the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee of the party on seeing disaster and collapse looming with the continuous dwindling fortunes of the party and many members dissatisfied with how the affairs of the party was being managed. The party had gotten its nose bloodied in political battles, especially with the way the governorship election in Bayelsa and Zamfara states were lost, and the way it was stopped from presenting a candidate at the River State gubernatorial election and how it almost lost the Osun State gubernatorial election.

To make matters worse, the party was involved in many leadership crises with various court decisions taking sides with different party men for the soul of APC. The fact was that the party was ailing from within and was really drowning at sea and in need of a lifeguard. This was what the president and the party's NEC saw and had to take a decisive action and dissolved the party leadership and appointed in its place a Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee chaired by Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, with the task to recover and reposition the party.

It was no surprise that when the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the APC was constituted, it was well accepted and received by all the members of the party who had expressed worry about the protracted leadership crisis bedeviling the party.

The 13-member caretaker committee, headed by Mai Mala Buni, was given six months by the NEC to complete its assignment.

Within the six months, the committee was mandated to organise a national convention for new leaders to emerge and to reconcile aggrieved members ahead of the planned national convention of the party.

It was believed that the task would be concluded in a short time, once the brewing tension, factionalisation of the party, crisis and the ever-growing court cases threatening the existence of the party were resolved.

As everyone had come to realise, the most important thing was to make sure that there was unity among members as it would be wrong to approach the convention with a divided house.

To bring a proper house back before the convention, the Buni-led committee engaged in genuine reconciliation of aggrieved party stakeholders some of whom had left the party. Many were brought back as they saw new hope and confidence in the party under the caretaker committee.

Those who joined APC, following the efforts of the Buni-led bommittee were Dave Umahi, Governor of Ebonyi State; former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, who was also chairman Atiku Abubakar Presidential campaign organisation and two former speakers of House of Representatives - Yakubu Dogara and Dimeji Bankole. Barnabas Gemade former PDP chairman and Lt. Gen. Ihejirika also joined the APC.

The Caretaker Committee has settled what was seen as irreconcilable differences among stakeholders in Zamfara, Rivers, Bayelsa and Cross River states.

The committee out of its wisdom and efforts to reposition the party, in line with Article 9(4) of the party's constitution, embarked on membership registration and revalidation exercise to take stock and establish the numerical strength of the party; to expunge names of those who have left APC or are now dead; to register youth who have attained 18 years and above; to provide members with opportunity to revalidate their membership; to give new entrants opportunity to register and be officially recognised as members; to give members ownership of the party and to assist the party in planning processes, especially during congresses, conventions and general elections.

The registration and revalidation, which started in February this year, was perhaps the most important task by the committee to have been criticised as many people are suspicious, perhaps needlessly, that it may have been introduced to kill the ambitions of some persons believed to have presidential ambition.

It had to be extended in order to increase the number of Nigerians entering the party, this made it impossible to complete the registration and revalidation in three weeks, according to the Caretaker Committee, which further argued that the second extension of the registration exercise was occasioned by unforeseen problems deliberately created by some people to shut out some new comers considered as rival groups and threat to older members, and to give more members the opportunity to be registered.

For the party to approach the ward, local government and state congresses and the national convention with a clean, authentic and up to date register, the time expended should be of little importance. To ensure collective participation with everyone carried on board, Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello chairs the committee on registration and revalidation with the members of the Caretaker Committee heading registration and revalidation exercise in various geo-political zones, while other non-members of the caretaker committee were coopted for the exercise to succeed.

It is pertinent to note that the Forum of APC State Caretaker Chairmen had also demanded for an extension of the exercise. Chairman of the Borno state APC who also chairs the forum, Alhaji Bukar Dalori said his members had seen tremendous turnout of Nigerians and the mass increase in the party strength in the last few months "and it is only proper that we allow the exercise to progress to the best of conclusion."

What should be the watchword is the need for the registration exercise to be done appropriately and successfully. The caretaker committee needs the support of every party member to complete the registration exercise successfully for APC to remain strong and united and to continue in the aura of Africa's largest political party.

Should the speculations surrounding the anticipated defections of Former President Goodluck Jonathan and the current Governor of Zamfara state Alhaji Bello Mutawali be anything to go by, and the need to get them registered before the end of the ongoing registration and revalidation of members, the extension of time would be justified.

The time spent to get things right is of little importance, but the real job of getting things done properly is what is important. This was supported by Chief Olayinka Gabriel, Lagos State APC chieftain who said: "A Comprehensive register will promote credible and acceptable Convention that is free from complaints of exclusion and possible litigation. This is necessary to ensure everyone is captured and empowered to actively contest and elect leaders of their choice for the party."

He posited that the party is currently breaking the jinx of failed party membership registration and revalidation exercise.

No doubt the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee under Governor Mai Mala Buni has retrieved the party from an imminent collapse and destruction, and is surely nearing the conclusion of the task it was given, and the long quest to approach the convention of the party with a clean bill of health may be sooner than imagined.

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